Commons pressure on Government to reveal badger cull numbers
Labour has demanded the Environment Secretary reveal in the House of Commons the number of badgers killed in Somerset after the Western Morning News reported the Government's pilot cull risks failing.
The WMN first reported on Thursday only a handful of badgers are being shot daily in the Exmoor culling area after almost two weeks of shooting.
The total toll was said to be "well below 100" – a fraction of the 2,000 badgers which need to be culled if the six-week trials are to be successful in curbing bovine tuberculosis.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has refused to comment so far but has not denied the claims made by sources close to the cull.
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In a point of order in the Commons yesterday, Mary Creagh, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, asked the Speaker of the House to urge Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to inform MPs of the status of the cull when they return to Parliament following conference recess.
She said: "I should like to draw the House's attention to the worrying reports in several newspapers today that the number of badgers being shot in the Somerset badger cull area is considerably lower than the target of 2,000 set by the Government.
"Scientists have warned us that there is a severe risk that bovine tuberculosis will become worse in badgers and cattle if the cull is not carried out properly.
"Ministers have failed to answer the questions I have tabled about the number of badgers culled in the cull areas. Can you therefore use your good offices to ensure that the House is updated at the earliest opportunity after the conference recess?"
Speaker Bercow responded: "I very much hope that the sorts of information she seeks can be provided before very long, especially in view of the extreme topicality of the matter that she has raised."
Following the question, Mrs Creagh has written to the minister warning the Somerset cull will be complete before MPs return on October 8.
"I hope that you will take the opportunity today to answer my parliamentary questions and clarify how the culls are progressing," she said.